The Government must consider taking the EU to the WTO if it follows through on threats to remove preferential access for our lamb and butter post-Brexit, National’s Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Following a vote in the influential European Parliament this week New Zealand exporters are set to have their rights and market access severely limited. They need to know the Government is acting urgently to protect their interests.

“The EU Parliament has taken a major step towards unilaterally restricting New Zealand’s trade with the bloc by voting to remove our duty-free Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQ) for lamb and butter.

“The Prime Minister’s assurances that New Zealand would be no worse off as a result of Brexit will be meaningless unless the Government takes swift action. Its silence on this important issue is extremely concerning.

“New Zealand exporters were right to be worried and the Prime Minister must urgently explain exactly what she said to EU leaders about our butter and lamb access.  Did she raise TRQs with them and what assurances if any did she receive?

“TRQs were won for NZ when Britain joined the European Community in 1973. They were notified and agreed by the WTO and New Zealand exporters have relied upon them for almost fifty years.

“The EU can’t be allowed to remove them unilaterally. The government must act swiftly and inform the EU that any move to remove TRQs will result in a WTO complaint.

“This is now urgent. If there is a no Brexit deal our rights could be restricted as soon as 30  March this year with some exporters facing higher tariffs into the UK and EU market.

“This Government didn’t take tariff increases on New Zealand steel and aluminium exports to the US seriously last year. The same can’t be allowed to happen for lamb and butter exports to the EU.

“The Prime Minister needs to back up her assurance that New Zealand will be no worse off after Brexit because it will be an unachievable claim if our exporters face reduced access or higher tariffs into the important EU market.”

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